Monday, 11 December 2017

No Snow but the Coldest Night of the Year

Well, we didn’t get any snow on Sunday. I have to admit that by Saturday morning the weather models had adjusted their predictions of where snow was to fall on Sunday and we were unlikely to get either snow or rain. That turned out to be the case. We did manage a few flakes on Sunday afternoon but it would be pushing it a bit to describe it as a snowfall. 
However, Sunday night through into Monday morning produced the coldest temperature of the year so far as the thermometer plunged to -3.2°C or 26.2°F. 

It's the coldest temperature since 29 December 2016 when the temperature fell to -5.6°C or 21.9°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 09-11 December 2017
Last week we didn’t visit our allotment and instead had a couple of afternoons photographing steam locomotives. It’s the time of year when special charter trains head for York. First, on Thursday afternoon, was “The Christmas White Rose” heading to York from Norwich. It was running about two hours late by the time we arrived at our chosen photographic location. We decided to get some lunch in York rather than hang around in the bitterly cold weather. After lunch we returned to our spot in time to see 60009 Union of South Africa speed by on its way to York.
On Saturday lunchtime it was the turn of 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe with “The York Yuletide Express” from London Ealing Broadway to York.
Luckily for us, this train was running only about 15 minutes late so we didn’t have to wait around in the freezing conditions for too long.

Friday, 8 December 2017

It's Here

As forecast the colder weather has arrived as you can see from the temperature chart. The wind chill effect makes it feel even colder.
Temperature, Wind Chill & Rainfall Records 06-08 December 2017
That spell of rain that shows up on the chart around midnight on Thursday fell as snow but by morning there was almost no trace of it left.
I got the impression that it wasn't very warm in our greenhouse this morning as last nights snow had turned into a covering of ice. Hopefully some sunshine will soon thaw it out and warm up the greenhouse a little bit.

The forecast is for snow showers on Saturday and for a more prolonged period of snowfall on Sunday.
We're under that central grey area of predicted snowfall for Sunday morning. That grey area doesn't move much at all through Sunday so we may get a moderate snowfall. The temperature is forecast to be around freezing point all day so the snow might hang around a bit.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Storm Caroline

Caroline passed through on Wednesday night and Thursday morning giving us nothing more than a typically windy December night with no particularly strong gusts of wind. However, following a few heavy showers as it got light on Thursday morning the temperature dropped considerably.
Temperature and Rainfall Records 07 December 2017
If the weather models are correct the temperature is going to fall even more over the next couple of days.

You may have watched the video that Sue posted yesterday of the birds devouring the sunflower hearts in our feeder.

Whilst I enjoy watching their antics there is a price to pay in that that the chaff from the seed collects below the feeder and needs to be removed. Watching the goldfinches you can see how they roll a sunflower heart in their beak to remove the seed coat which falls to the ground. I've found the easiest way to collect all the fallen waste is to keep some weed control fabric under the feeder so that the fabric can be used to collect all the waste and disposed of as necessary. 
On Wednesday afternoon I had a tidy up around the base of the feeder. The weed control fabric is held in place with some hefty prunings from our magnolia tree and covered with a few leaves for good measure. Surprisingly storm Caroline didn't blow them away overnight.  

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Before the Cold Spell

There’s not much to report on the weather front at the moment. The last couple of days have been pretty decent with around average temperatures. 
Temperature & Rainfall Records 02-04 December 2017
However, things are set to change as first, wet and windy weather arrives mid week to be followed by a spell of cold weather accompanied by snow showers due to set in over the weekend and into next week.

I made a short video of our visit to the plot last Sunday when we lifted our dahlia tubers.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Dahlias Saved

Considering the time of year Sunday wasn't a bad day. After a bit of a cloudy start the sun broke through to give us some decent sunny spells and it was reasonably mild for December. We decided on an afternoon trip to the plot to lift our dahlia tubers and save them somewhere frost free and dry over winter.
Sue was hoping that our chrysanthemums had survived the recent cold spell and that they might provide us with a few cut flowers.
Unfortunately that wasn't the case and we decided that these too could be cut back and the roots lifted and protected again the worst of the winter weather.

Whilst I cut back and lifted the dahlias Sue cut back the chrysanthemums.
The last couple of months have been on the dry side with not a great deal of rain which meant the dahlia roots came out of the ground easily without too much soil clinging to the roots. Most of the soil was cleared off the roots with a small hand fork. The roots have been placed in a large potato sack and have gone into the garage to be stored alongside our potatoes. I'll leave them in the garage until around the beginning of March. 

The chrysanthemum roots were lifted too but these were placed in plastic tubs with the roots packed in wood chip. The tubs were placed in the plot greenhouse for protection.
After lifting the dahlias and chrysanthemums we decided we still had a little bit of time left before it got dark to do some harvesting. We managed to dig up some carrots, parsnips, leeks and beetroot as well as cut a couple of red cabbages and a green one. The main surprise of the day was that some tomatoes and a couple of red peppers in the plot greenhouse had survived the cold weather.
As you can probably tell from the photo by the time we'd finished harvesting it was starting to get dark.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

It's Warmed Up A Bit

The start of meteorological winter has brought some slightly milder weather with it for a few days. Although last month had some cold days it also had some very mild days for November and at the end of the month these balanced one another out and the monthly temperature was around average for November. 
It was another month with considerably less rainfall than we might expect. as you can see from the table above only 2011 has been drier since 2010.
A Dunnock Checks Out a Weathered Log for Food
At least it looks like we might be getting a few milder days when the bird bath won't need de-icing. The forecast at the moment is for cold weather to return towards the end of the week. The good or bad news, depending on how you view snow, is that we could get some heavy snow showers on Thursday and Friday accompanied by some cold northerly winds. In terms of computer weather models Thursday is a long way off and there's every possibility that a different outcome will be predicted over the next few days.  

Friday, 1 December 2017

Winter's Arrived - Meteorologically Speaking

It's definitely been a bit on the cold side over the last few days almost like winter has arrived a little bit early. It's been cold enough to put us off visiting the plot. On Thursday the temperature barely made it above freezing and combined with a strongish breeze it wasn't a day for being outside. It was the first time this autumn that the water in the bird bath has frozen over. The birds didn't appreciate not being able to get a drink.
Once filled up the birds were happy even if a very thin coating of ice began to form on the surface of the water.

Although it's felt cold it's been nothing like as cold as it was in November 2010. In that year I recorded a low temperature of -7.6°C (18.3°F) which still easily remains as my November record low.
Temperatures Records 23-29 November 2010 and 2017
The chart above shows the temperature records for the same weeks in 2010 and 2017.

We do really need to make an effort to get to the allotment to dig up our dahlia tubers and store them somewhere dry and frost free. I don't think it's yet been cold enough for any frost to penetrate down to the roots and do any damage. All the same, we're pushing our luck a little bit.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Cold Weather Forecast

After a couple of days of fairly average November temperatures it appears that we're in for a couple of weeks of below average temperature but sprinkled in will be the odd milder day. Monday felt cold though as it was windy which took the edge off the milder temperatures.
 Temperature with Wind Chill Effects for Monday 27 November 2017
Of course, there's a chance that everything could change with the next run of the weather models and the colder weather might disappear from the forecast.
This campanula is still looking good despite some cold days and nights.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Coldest Average This Autumn

Based on average daily temperature Saturday turned out to be our coldest day of autumn. It wasn’t that we had a particularly cold night as the temperature fell to -0.2°C (31.6°F), it was more to do with the daytime high only reaching 5.7°C (42.3°F) that resulted in an average of 2.9°C or 37.2°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for 25 November 2017
It’s possible that it might be turning even colder as we progress through the rest of the week so it’s probably time for our agapanthus to be moved into the greenhouse for a little bit of protection. 
The greenhouse won’t give it much protection from the cold but it will keep it out of any rain and it’s often a combination of the two that some plants don’t survive.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Mild One Day, Cold the Next

After a couple of mild and windy days the weather has turned colder again. On Wednesday much of the north had lots of rain but luckily we missed most of it.
Temperature, Wind Chill and Rainfall Records 22-24 November 2017
The forecast for the rest of November is for the weather to continue cold and to be mostly dry. So despite some flooding, not that far away from us, we could finish up having a dry November. We have had 22.0mm (0.87in) of rainfall up to the 24th of the month set against an average of 66.0mm or 2.6in.

The milder weather was accompanied by strong winds which I expected would clear the last of the remaining leaves from the trees. It did its best but a few leaves have survived to be blown off another day.
We made the most of a sunny spell on Thursday to catch the first steam hauled Christmas charter train of the year heading to York. No sooner had 46100 Royal Scot passed by than the heavens opened.
Our next gardening task is to lift our dahlia tubers and store them somewhere dry and frost free over winter. It looks like it might be a cold job.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Last of Our Autumn Colours

After a cold, dry sunny and calm weekend the weather has turned very mild even for November. The downside is that it's turned wetter and windier. The rain and wind have just about brought an end to the autumn colours as the last of the leaves are blown from the trees.
It's suddenly very noticeable that our acer has undergone a rather dramatic change over the last few days.
Nearly all it superb autumn colour has disappeared. There are just a few raggedy leaves hanging on. The forecast is for some stronger winds through Wednesday into Thursday morning so that will more than likely clear away the remaining leaves.

It's not all bad news though as in the tubs covered in fallen magnolia leaves have the first bulbs for spring just starting to push their noses through the soil.
With the weather set to turn colder by the time we get to the weekend these early shoots might regret popping up so soon.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Days Out and Night Time Photography

The last few days have been cold and dry and at times we've had some nice sunny spells.
We had a couple of trips out as the weather wasn't too bad. We paid a visit to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Potteric Carr near Doncaster on Friday afternoon. As usual when we make a visit the birds stay well out of camera range. On this particular occasion I didn't have any photos of wildlife but the late autumn colours provided some good photographic opportunities.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - Potteric Carr
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - Potteric Carr
On Saturday we headed to the Great Central Railway where they were holding their "Last Hurray of the Season" gala. This is their last main gala of the year before the Santa Trains begin to run as we head towards December. At least when we felt cold we could hop on a train and have a ride to warm up.
Rothley Station - Great Central Railway
Of course the light fades very early as we're approaching the end of November and trains were still running as darkness fell. We decided to see if we could capture any night time shots as the light began to fade.
Quorn & Woodhouse Station - Great Central Railway
Quorn & Woodhouse Station - Great Central Railway
As darkness fell we were waiting for some action to take place so were using our cameras in video mode. The above photos are still images clipped from the video. Whilst it wasn't completely dark the lights on the station were starting to take effect and I don't think the photos have come out too badly. By the time the locomotive in question decided to move darkness had fallen completely and it was tricky pointing the camera in the right direction. That was something I hadn't thought about when taking night time photographs. 
Quorn & Woodhouse Station - Great Central Railway
Hardly surprising that there's very little to see. When I took the video I was pointing the camera into blackness with very little idea of what would be in shot!

Friday, 17 November 2017

I Might Have Been A Bit Hasty

The forecast was correct and a dull Friday morning turned in a bright sunny afternoon as a band of drizzly rain passed through with the cooler sunnier weather following on behind.

Back in September I was busy lifting our potatoes and at the time I posted about our badly damaged Winston potato crop. If you want to check back you can read my post here. I wasn't too happy about the amount of slug damage to our crop and more or less decided I wouldn't be growing Winston again.
Worst of Potato Winston - September 2017
I did post at the time I was sorting out any undamaged or slightly damaged potatoes and storing them as a bag of Winston "seconds". I didn't think these damaged potatoes would keep very well and over the last few weeks we have been using up these "seconds". I've found that many of the potatoes which have a hole in them have very little damage once they are prepared for cooking.
This is typical of the damage to our second class Winston potatoes and below is the potato prepared for cooking with the wasted potato removed.
I've left the waste to the right of the photo and as you can see it doesn't amount to half a chip's worth. I'm now thinking that to rule out Winston as a crop for next year might have been a bit hasty. We'll have to see how our other varieties keep through winter before making our choices in January next year. 

Yesterday, on my Facebook page, I posted some photos clipped from a video I took at Clumber Park this week. The full video is posted below.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Tale of Two Hostas

After a couple of colder days the weather turned milder for  Tuesday and Wednesday although it's forecast to turn colder again by the end of the week. 
This year we tried some Slug Gone wool pellets to try and control the slugs. As these pellets are expensive we decided to try to protect some of our potted hostas situated around the garden pond rather than attempt to protect too many plants. It's been a bit hit and miss so I'm not sure whether that's down to the protection offered by the wool pellets or something entirely different. 

Here's hosta number one pictured a few days ago.
As you can see the leaves are now starting to turn yellow as the plant dies back for winter when it will loose all its foliage. However the most important point is that the leaves are completely free of any slug damage. Hostas in previous years have been devastated by slug attack in similar positions around the pond.   

Now let's have a look at hosta number two.
Not such a pretty sight with lots of slug damage. So I'm not sure exactly why the first plant is undamaged. The two hostas are different varieties. Maybe the slugs aren't partial to hosta number one. The two plants aren't situated that far apart.
The other issue which comes to mind is, do the slugs find an alternative way of getting to the second hosta that avoids the sheep's wool pellets. Can they get onto the hosta leaves by sliming their way over the fern planted next to it but then they'd have to find a way off the hosta leaves.

I'm not entirely convinced how successful the use of these pellets around the hostas has been through summer. I did try to use some around plants in our cold frames at home. Tender young plants in the cold frame often fall prey to slugs who have been known to completely clear trays of lettuce or cabbage seedlings. I think the use of these pellets around the edges of the cold frame was helpful but I still had to go round checking underneath seed trays for slugs lurking in the seed tray crevices. I usually found one or two.

I think I'll give the pellets another go next year. I've tried lots of other methods and have still to find one that's effective. I'll have to give some careful thought to where the pellets are used to give maximum slug protection.  

To finish off below is a video tour of our allotment plots in the middle of November.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017


The last couple of days have been on the cold side. We haven't had any night time frosts but the daytime temperatures have struggled to reach 8.0°C or 46.0°F. Not that this is unusual, it's what we should expect in the middle of November.

We managed a visit to the plot on Sunday afternoon. It was our first visit to the allotment since the temperature had fallen just below freezing for the first time this autumn. We were wondering if our dahlias had survived the chill.
As soon as we arrived we headed over to the perennial bed to check out our dahlias. There wasn't much doubt that they had been caught by the frost. Their leaves had turned black, a sure sign of frost damage. The next time we visit the plot our main job will be to lift the tubers and move them into storage for winter. The good news was that our chrysanthemums had survived the frost.
After inspecting the dahlias I concentrated on getting our compost bays sorted out. I'd started on our previous visit and managed to sort out one of the bays ready for composting our non weedy material. I managed to empty two other bays and get them ready to be filled up over the coming year or so.
We have five compost bays altogether. Three of these are now empty, one is full of weedy material and the remaining one is full of non weedy material. I'm hoping these two can be left for a year to turn into some useful compost and in the meantime the three other bays can be refilled.

Next job lifting, cleaning and drying our dahlia tubers for winter storage.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Leaves Are Hanging On - Just

The last week hasn’t been too bad as we’ve had no gale force winds, only some light rain and a couple of nice sunny days. We have had a couple of cold mornings and our first frost of autumn.
Temperature & Rainfall Details 04-10 November 2017
Wednesday was probably the best day. After the early morning frost cleared it left us with a lovely sunny winter’s day even if it was a bit on the cool side. I much prefer cold sunny days to the dull drab days we often get through autumn and winter.

We took Tivvy for a walk in Rothwell Park. 
Tivvy checking I wasn't lagging too far behind
From a distance, the trees still looked to have some autumn colours but close up they appeared to have lost most of their leaves. Another gale or some heavy rain will probably finish them off.
In the garden our little acer tree still has most of its leaves and is looking at its best.